Only have one week in Portugal? Don’t worry! This small country has a lot to see, but you still be able to get a great taste of what it offers in just seven days with this Portugal itinerary.
We spent about a week in this little country and loved it. We travelled to the south and explored the Algarve’s beaches, then we headed north to see hilly Porto and try its namesake drink, and lastly we ended in Lisbon – a capital city that blew me away with its beauty.
So don’t be intimidated by only having a week here. I loved our time in Portugal. And I felt like we were able to both see a lot and spend more than a couple hours in each place.
So without further adieu, I hope you find our Portugal itinerary helpful for planning your own trip. And that you fall as equally in love with this country as we did.
Table of Contents
- Portugal Itinerary Overview
- Days 1-2: Lagos
- Days 3-4: Porto
- Days 5-7: Lisbon
- Sample Portugal Itinerary
- What to Wear in Portugal
- Final Thoughts
Portugal Itinerary Overview
Days 1-2: Lagos
This itinerary starts off in Lagos. If you land in Lisbon, head to Lagos on the same day (information on how to get there below)!
If you want to mix up this itinerary’s order, definitely do what feels right to you! I wanted to experience the south, north, and Lisbon, which is why we jumped around. But you can also skip one of the destinations and spend more time in the other places.
Day 1: Explore Lagos & Its Beaches
Our mornings in Lagos started off with an amazing breakfast at our B&B. So many mini pastel de natas.
After fueling up, it was off to explore the beaches of Lagos. Well, that’s not entirely true. There was only one beach in Lagos that I had to see: Praia do Camilo.
Camilo beach is located very close to our accommodation and we easily walked there. And though the beach was packed and the water was cold (like icy), I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Read Next: Camilo Beach: The Beach I Had to See
After a couple of hours on the beach, it was time to head into town. Sangria at an open air cafe, music on every corner (though there was a beat box guy that, I’m sorry to say, we tried to avoid), octopus for dinner, and finally a stop at three of Lagos’s bars: Sky Bar, Taberna de Lagos, & Bon Vivant.
At 1am, Lagos was starting to come alive, but I was starting to collapse. (I was just getting over a cold, plus jet lag is rough you guys.) But I wished we could have stayed out longer.
Read Next: Lagos, Portugal: Should You Go?
Extra Day: Take a Surfing Lesson (or more beach hopping or a boat tour…)
We were supposed to have an additional 3rd day in Lagos, which would have given us a little over a week. But we lost it do to delayed and missed flights.
Our plan for this day? To go surfing. But instead it had taken us more than 24 extra hours to reach Portugal due to delayed flights out of Greenville, SC. So this was the day we cut.
If you have an extra day for your vacation, you could definitely use it here. Surfing. A boat tour. Beach hopping. Kayaking. Mini road trip. Whatever you want.
But if you don’t have the vacation days then you can do as we did and just spend 2 full days in Lagos.
Day 2: Go Hiking
After eating more breakfast (like seriously those pastel de natas), it was time to burn off some calories. So we decided to hike to Ponta da Piedade.
Because Villas D. Dinis (our B&B) is located on the south side of town, the point was only 1km away. But due to our plans that afternoon and evening, we knew we could only spend about 2 hours exploring it.
It was not nearly enough.
This is one of the places that must be on your Portugal itinerary. You know all of those postcards and photos of Lagos or the Algarve? Probably more than half of them were taken here. And I now wish we would have spent a whole afternoon exploring Ponta da Piedade.
Read Next: Postcard Perfect Ponta da Piedade
If that morning was amazing, then our afternoon and evening blew me away. We had booked a tour with the West Coast Adventure Co. to explore the other side of the Algarve. The western, wild side. The side not everyone sees.
It was one of the best tours I’ve ever been on.
Seriously. No joke here. If you love hiking, exploring, climbing hands over feet on craggy trails and seeing a part of a country that not everyone experiences – then this is for you. Thinking back on our time in Portugal, this was one of the best things we decided to do.
And I now see that the off overnight tours! They are a bit pricey, but I bet they’re totally worth it. Next trip for sure!!
Read Next: Exploring the West Coast of Portugal
How to Get to Lagos
By Rental Car
Our original plan was simple. We were going to take a train (albeit a long one) from Lisbon to Lagos. This is definitely a possibility – especially if you land in the morning at Lisbon airport.
But sometimes plans go awry. We hit flight delays which put us into Lisbon 30 hours later than we had planned.
By the time we got to Lisbon and looked at the trains still running that afternoon, we realized we wouldn’t arrive in Lagos till much later that evening. So instead we decided to book a car for the Lagos portion of our journey.
If you plan a similar trip, you definitely don’t have to rent a car. And, after all the lines and waiting for the car, we only saved a couple of hours. But it did give us flexibility on what time we were able to arrive and leave Lagos.
The downsides of renting a car? It’s expensive, gas is also very pricey, and there are tons of tolls on the roads. If we did this trip again and arrived on time, we would not rent the car.
The drive itself took about 2.5 hours (but we easily spent over 2 hours waiting in all the lines for the rental car, so 4.5 hours total).
By train, the journey will take between 3-4 hours (1 change in between) if you can catch a morning or early afternoon train. You’ll want to leave out of the Oriente train station.
To get there, take a metro (subway) from the airport to the train station – it’s only 3 stops on the red line. Check the metro map before you get started.
You’ll have one connection to a slower regional train once you reach the Algarve.
To book train tickets and to see schedules, go to www.cp.pt. They even have an English version of the site. To determine your schedules, I also found Trainline to be helpful. Though I would book through the Portugal site to be safe.
Traveling by bus is also possible, but I seriously struggled to figure it out at the time. Though it does look like they updated their website! Have a poke around the bus system if you are interested in this option.
You can also fly straight to the Algarve if you’d like! The main airport is in Faro and its easy to get around the Algarve from there.
Depending on how you book your flights, you could fly from your home straight to Faro. I wouldn’t do a roundtrip from here though as you’ll probably head up north to see Porto or Lisbon. So make sure you plan out your itinerary in advance before buying your tickets.
(To do this you’ll need to select the multi-city option on the airline booking sites.)
Once you are in Faro, you have several options on how to get to Lagos. You could rent a car, take a private shuttle or bus (Green bus is a more affordable option I found), take a taxi (this would probably be very expensive), or take a train.
The train station isn’t close to the airport, so you’d probably need to take a bus or a taxi to the train station. But then it’s just a 1.5-2 hour train ride to Lagos.
I sometimes check Rail Europe or Trainline to get a general sense if the route is doable. Then drill down with Portuguese rail site for more details (and sometimes more options).
Where to Eat in Lagos
O Camilo, I won’t lie, you were probably a bit overpriced. But I loved that you gave your customers blankets for the balcony. And it was you who taught me that sardines are actually delicious.
Cayo Coco is located right in the heart of downtown Lagos. And is probably more touristy than I would have liked. But the octopus that night (and let’s not forget the sangria) were still delicious. I don’t regret stopping there at all.
Where to Stay in Lagos
Perhaps you can already tell I loved our B&B in Lagos. The rooms, the pools, the service, and the food. It was all perfect. Located outside of town, it was our little sanctuary in Lagos. Plus it’s almost across the street from Camilo Beach.
It was definitely a splurge for us – but it’s one we loved and don’t regret.
Read Next: Tranquil
Read Next: Tranquility at Villas D. Dinis
Days 3-4: Porto
Day 3: Head to Porto
On our last morning in Lagos, we woke up early and headed straight for Camilo Beach. I needed to say goodbye and I wanted to do it with no one else around.
I’ll always love that beach.
From there we ate our last breakfast at Villas D. Dinis and then drove to Lisbon to return the car and catch the train to Porto.
Fun fact! You don’t have to walk from the Lisbon airport to the closest train station, there is a metro you can take. Another fun fact! We didn’t know this until after we got to the train station.
We caught the train and though we arrived a little after the check-in time, MyStay Porto (now Historical Porto Studios) graciously stayed open and waited for us.
From there we quickly headed down to the Ribeira to grab dinner and to finally see Porto.
I’ll let you in on a secret right now – Porto was probably my favorite city in Portugal. It was the one I could easily see myself living in. Definitely don’t miss it.
Read Next: Scenes From Porto
Day 4: Explore Porto’s Tower & Port Cellars
This was the day we walked all over Porto and ate everything. But our first stop of the day? The Clérigos Tower.
Being the highest point in Porto, we got one hell of a view. But trust me – you have to earn it.
There is one staircase for going up and coming down. One NARROW staircase. I probably got to second base with more people that day than I could count.
If you’re claustrophobic, stay away. Far away. Or go really early to avoid the crowds.
You’ve been warned.
From there, we wandered across the river to Taylor’s to do a port wine cellar tour. If you haven’t made the connection yet, Porto got its name from the drink port. You know, that stuff you imagine aristocrats from times long ago drank. But! Newsflash!
Port is delicious!
Like really, really good. And if you sign up for a tour with Taylor’s, you get to try three different kinds. Before we left Porto, I even bought a small bottle to bring back. Don’t leave a port wine cellar tour off your Portugal itinerary!
Read Next: Taylor’s Port Cellar Tours (Or How I Learned To Love Port)
From there we ate some more, took a nap, and then decided to find out what Porto has to offer in terms of nightlife. The answer? A lot. We had a great time drinking cocktails and bouncing from bar to bar.
How to Get to Porto
By Rental Car
We drove from Lagos to Lisbon, dropped off the rental car, and then grabbed a train to Porto. If you are following the rest of this itinerary, you definitely do not need a car anymore. You’ll be spending the rest of your time in cities. Plus gas is expensive in Portugal (and they have many tolls).
So if you have a car, I’d plan to drop it off in Lisbon or Porto. I can’t imagine trying to find parking in either.
To get to the heart of Porto, the train station is Sao Bento. If you are coming from Lagos or Lisbon, you’ll have a transfer at Campanha (in Porto). Or you can do like we did and just take a taxi from Campanha to your hotel if you are tired and are trying to hurry.
From Lagos. This will be a long day. And I would suggest trying to catch the train that allows you to skip stopping in Lisbon (though it leaves very early in the morning). But you’ll only have 2 transfers.
First a regional train from Lagos to Tunes (one of the main Algarve stations). Then a fast train from Tunes all the way to the main Porto station (Campanha). And lastly a metro into the heart of Porto (Sao Bento).
If like 6am doesn’t work for you, then you have other options (often with a transfer in Lisbon at Oriente).
Total Time: 7-10 hours
From Lisbon. If you rented car and dropped it off at the airport, you can catch the metro to the Oriente station (it’s only 3 stops on the red line: see the metro map). And then catch the train to Porto (with a transfer at Campanha to get to Sao Bento).
The train from Lisbon to Porto: 3 hours.
You can always book your train tickets (and check out schedules) in advance too!
If you flew to Faro (or took a train or bus), you can also fly to Porto to cut this travel day down! You may be able to find some budget airlines and flights to hop around Portugal on. Just be sure to read through what you have to do very closely! Some airlines like Ryanair are very particular.
And you’ll need to get from Lagos to Faro by either shuttle or taxi or train. See the How To Get To Lagos section for my recommendations here.
Where to Eat in Porto
Clérigos Vinhos e Petiscos was just what we needed. Quick. Delicious. And on our way to the train station.
Restaurante Flor dos Congregados was hard to find. Tucked down a small alley with black and white cobblestones, it seemed unobtrusive. But here you’ll find amazing staff who will read you the menu if you don’t speak Portuguese. And, of course, great food. Their main lunch special? For €7 I got a great sandwich and a bottle of champagne. A bottle!!!
Mercearia Das Flores was a quick stop. After drinking a fair amount of port, we needed some food. And I was intrigued by the idea of sardines on toast. The verdict? Actually quite delicious.
Miss Opo was perhaps the oddest place we ate at. With no sign but a small business card in the corner, I wasn’t sure if it was even restaurant at first. But the people I saw packed inside told me otherwise. And the food? Well, the food convinced me it was worth the trouble to find.
Read Next: Where to Eat in Porto
Where to Stay in Porto
MyStay Porto was perfect for our stay. It’s been renamed since our trip. It’s now called Historical Porto Studios.
But regardless, it’s located right in the heart of Porto, so we were close to everything. And the staff graciously stayed late when I let them know we missed the earlier train. Definitely consider MyStay Porto if you are coming to this awesome city.
Days 5-7: Lisbon
Day 5: Head to Lisbon
This was the day we left Porto and headed to Lisbon. The train ride and the subsequent metro to our hotel (Hall Chiado) were uneventful. Lisbon welcomed us easily.
After a quick nap, we headed up to our first miradouro to see Lisbon from above. Standing at the top of the Bairro Alto at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, I got my first view of Lisbon.
But before I could linger too long, a rumbling to my right caught my attention and I spied my first elevador. This was the Elevador da Glória, and I loved watching it rumble up and down the steep, steep slope.
But with just one look at its cost, we decided to hoof it both ways. That night we ate a glorious dinner at Casa do Alentejo and then hit up Noobai Cafe for a drink.
Just so you know, Lisbon sangria is much different than Lagos sangria. And not in a good way. I don’t know what it was, but I left Noobai Cafe feeling nauseous.
Day 6: Explore Lisbon’s Miradouros
This was our day to explore Lisbon. We started off with a quick lunch and then caught Tram 28 across town.
Many consider catching a ride on Tram 28 to be a must for their Portugal itinerary. But I think you should only do it if you are going to ride it completely in one direction. Hopping on for just a few stops isn’t worth it.
We spent most of the afternoon walking to Lisbons’s miradorous.
What’s a miradouro you ask? Well it’s basically a viewpoint. And with all the hills in Lisbon, there are several. Just be ready for a hike. Cause, you know, they are on top of hills.
Read Next: The Miradouro and My Quest for the Best Views in Lisbon
From there, we headed to Lisbon’s castle (Castelo de S. Jorge). Earlier in the day we had decided to skip it but, passing by it again, I pulled Ryan to a stop. After seeing this castle from the outside all day, I couldn’t not take a peek inside.
Read Next: Visiting Lisbon’s Castle: Amazing Or Underwhelming?
From the castle we meandered down through the Alfama and made our way slowly across town, stopping at several sights along the way until we finally reached our hotel.
Then (after a quick nap), it was game time. This was our night out in the Bairro Alto.
Narrow alleys. Bars and clubs on every block. Drinking in the streets. The Bairro Alto is one giant party. And one with very low prices. It’s a definite must, if only for a night.
But as the clock ticked past midnight, I needed to dance. So it was down to the clubs and, after searching for one with a cover that wasn’t too steep, we decided on Discoteca Jamaica.
This was perhaps our biggest mistake of the night.
After only 15 minutes inside, I came to a disturbing realization. This club had a love for 90s rock that could not be matched. And I’m sorry to say, but clubs are not where I want my 90s rock.
It now looks (I think) to be closed, but Lisbon has an amazing nightlife and if clubbing is your thing, it’s got several to choose from.
Day 7: Day Trip to Sintra
Our last day in Portugal. But I knew exactly how I wanted to spend it. A day trip to Sintra is a must for any Portugal itinerary. With various palaces and castles, Sintra really deserves more time. But a day was all we had.
Catching the train from Lisbon was easy. Use Lisbon’s Rossio station, and keep an eye on whether you have a transfer. Journey should take less than an hour.
Even though the clouds that day weren’t looking favorably upon us, we didn’t let that deter us. It was onto Castelo dos Mouros, Sintra’s own Moorish castle.
Perched high above the small town, getting to the castle was a journey. But after it started raining and the fog rolled in thick, exploring the castle became an adventure.
Read Next: Castelo dos Mouros: Sintra’s Misty & Magical Castle
After a couple of hours exploring the castle, we bid it adieu and took a look at our watches. With just a couple of hours left, I knew we didn’t have time to see the Pena Palace. We’d have to catch the bus there.
But there was one other palace that was calling to me.
Situated in the heart of Sintra, the National Palace was a no brainer. It was here that the actual kings and queens of old lived during the summer months.
It blew me away and left me wondering why more people don’t give it a chance.
Read Next: Sintra’s National Palace: 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Miss It
After catching the train back to Lisbon, our evening consisted of packing and, of course, eating.
How to Get to Lisbon
Taking a train from Lisbon to Porto is easy! And this is definitely what I would recommend. Renting a car between these two cities would be a hassle with tolls and parking. So as long as you don’t have a rental car, I’d recommend the train.
From our Porto accommodation we walked to the Sao Bento train station and took the train to Lisbon (transfer at Campanha).
Once we were in Lisbon, we used the metro to go to the closest stop to our hotel.
The train from Porto to Lisbon: 3 hours. You can also see schedules and book your tickets in advance.
Where to Eat in Lisbon
Casa do Alentejo was hard to find. Located among many other restaurants, it doesn’t have someone standing outside shoving a menu in your face. And in fact, when we were there, the front of the sign was under construction causing us to walk by it twice without realizing it.
But inside? A glorious Moorish interior and amazingly delicious fish.
Thinking back, Restaurante 1º de Maio was probably my favorite dining experience out of everywhere we ate. The restaurant was small and packed. We had to wait almost 30 minutes to grab a small table.
And there was no English menu. But the staff were amazing and were happy to give us recommendations on what we should order.
And the food? Traditional, simple, and delicious.
The Decadente Restaurante & Bar wasn’t a restaurant we were planning on. But the food turned out to be great and its location perfect.
The thing that sticks out to me the most though? The fact that they served tap water, and it was free!
Where to Stay in Lisbon
Hall Chiado was our hotel and it was quite unique. There was no reception, and we never saw a single member of the staff. Instead we were emailed an access code for the building and room.
The downstairs is littered with signs and booklets offering restaurant recommendations, activities, and walking guides. And the room? Two words: simple and elegant.
Sample Portugal Itinerary
Okay so this is a super long post. And you want like a cheatsheet version of it. So here you go!
- Grab a quick breakfast and then head to Praia do Camilo as early as you can to grab some sand space.
- Beach hop to some other beaches or stop by for photos on your way into Lagos proper. Beaches: Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Pinhão, Praia dos Estudantes, & Batata Beach
- Explore Lagos and grab dinner in town
- After breakfast, head for Ponta da Piedade and explore to your heart’s desires.
- Fuel up and then head out on a hiking adventure with West Coast Adventure Co.
- Wake up early to wish goodbye to Lagos. In particular Praia do Camilo sans crowds.
- Head to Porto.
- Grab dinner in Porto and, if energy allows, go out for a beer at As 7 Maravilhas.
- Wake up early and go to the Clérigos Tower first thing to beat the crowds. Explore this side of Porto (north side of the river).
- Grab lunch at Restaurante Flor dos Congregados if open for lunch – check their days.
- Head across the river to Taylor’s and sign up for a port wine cellar tour.
- Head back into Porto for dinner. (If you didn’t grab lunch at Restaurante Flor dos Congregados, I’d suggest making a reservation for dinner.)
- Take the train to Lisbon
- Wander Lisbon, taking in the view at a Miradouro (if you are near the Bairro Alto, head for Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara).
- Grab dinner at Casa do Alentejo
- If you wake up early enough, catch Tram 28 across Lisbon. Try to snag a window seat and enjoy the ride.
- Make your way to the city’s miradouros: Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Miradouro da Graça, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, & Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
- Buy a ticket for Castelo de São Jorge if you want to know more history (the castle is a bit underwhelming), but the views themselves may be worth it.
- Grab dinner at Restaurante 1º de Maio. (Reservations would be a good idea!)
- Experience Lisbon’s nightlife in the Bairro Alto.
- Wake up early and head to the Rossio train station to catch the train to Sintra.
- Decide on the sites you want to see. The 3 main ones are: Castelo dos Mouros, Pena Palace, and the National Palace. But there are others (including Quinta da Regaleira).
- Grab dinner at Decadente Restaurante & Bar.
What to Wear in Portugal
I visited Portugal in late summer / early autumn. And overall it was a lot cooler than I expected. I brought a good mix of summer and autumn clothes (though I could have done with 1 or 2 more cover-ups). And I think it worked out pretty well.
I also found that people in Portugal tend to dress a bit more stylishly than back home. So I made sure to pack items that I would look good in (and not look like I rolled out of bed in).
When it comes to these week-long trips, I don’t like to do laundry. If I have to, I have to. But I don’t plan too. Which is why my list is longer than some people’s. So keep that in mind.
I also tend to over-pack rather than under-pack. So use these items as a guideline not a rule.
And if you don’t want to do some things (like the hiking I did), then you don’t need to bring some items. I tried to indicate below if I used a particular item for a particular activity so you can make your own judgment.
Here is what I packed (and/or recommend):
- 2 leggings
- 1-2 jeans (Black skinny jeans are always in my bag. But if jeans aren’t your think, maybe throw in another pair of leggings.)
- 1-2 pair of shorts (I brought just one nice pair, but I wore them a lot.)
- 1-2 bathing suits
- 1 beach coverup
- 3-4 casual tank tops
- 3-4 nice tank tops / dresses
- 2 long sleeve shirts (Great for the days and nights it’s cooler.)
- 1-3 pullovers/jackets (I had a sporty one for hiking and light-weight button down. I wish I had brought another, slightly heavier jacket.)
- 1-3 “flashier” shirts/outfits if going to bars / clubs is something you do.
- 1 pair of boots
- 1 pair of sneakers (I brought actual sneakers but I could have done with converse.)
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 scarf
- backpack (You’ll need a small one for hiking if you want to bring some snacks, water, long sleeve shirt, etc.)
- water bottle (The tap water is safe to drink.)
- mini febreze bottle (Yes I use this so I don’t have to do laundry sometimes – please don’t judge me too much.)
Okay so I think that is like everything I packed that was significant. Don’t forget your essentials though! Bras, underwear, socks, deodorant, toiletries, etc. these all need space in your bag!
In so many ways Portugal delighted me. With its cliffs, sangria, crystal blue water, friendly locals, simple and lovely food, bright sunshine, hilltop castles, rich history, and amazing architecture. Simply put:
I loved this small country.
61 thoughts on “The Perfect Portugal Itinerary”
This is such a fab writeup! I’m planning a similar trip for May, and have saved this post to come back to. Great pictures and great tips!
Hi Tamara! Thanks for reading and for sharing! I loved our time in Portugal. And though there are other places I definitely want to see, I felt like Lagos, Porto, Lisbon, & Sintra gave us a perfect introduction to this country. Definitely try to hit up a couple on your own trip!
Hello! This is one of the best blogs that i’ve read about this trip! I’m deciding between Faro and Porto. Do you have any recommendations? Did you hear anything about Faro?
Thanks! I read a little about Faro in preparation for the trip. I had heard that it was larger and more built up. I wanted a smaller beach town which is why I picked Lagos. And I wanted to be near the cliffside beaches – there are several near Lagos. But on a plus side – you can also fly to Faro from Lisbon.
If you’re deciding between Faro and Porto, I would think about the time of year you are going and what you are looking for. If it’s summer, do you want to sit by the beach or do you want to retreat to a cooler hilly town? If you aren’t going in the summer, the beach will be cooler. We went in very early September and it was only about 80 degrees F with the water very very very cool. If it’s not summer, would you want to go to a beach destination and not sit by the beach? Or would you enjoy experiencing the town without hordes of other tourists around?
Definitely think about when you’re going and what you’ll want to do!
Portugal is not in the Mediterranean Sea – it is the Atlantic that’s why it is so cold!!
Yep you’re right! When I was planning my trip I had just assumed the southern coast of Portugal was part of the Mediterranean. It was a rude awakening when I put my feet into the water! The Atlantic is very cold here! Sorry for the confusion above in the post above!
Great blog, thanks for sharing! I stumbled over here on Pinterest after researching Portugal and my ears perked up when I saw you were flying out of Greenville. I’m from Greenville, too! haha… small world! 🙂
That is a small world! And thank you! Greenville, SC has been my base for the past few years now and I love it!
Thanks for such a lovely article! These are the exact places I wanted to include in my one week portugal itinerary and your article has inspired me more. The only thing I would be travelling from Nov 18-Nov 27. Do you suggest changing the itinerary based on weather? I am particularly concerned about Lagos/Algarve.
Thank you! I think you’ll have a great time on your trip. The weather in Lagos in November will be cooler, so it won’t be beach weather. But there will probably be far less crowds which can be a good thing. If you want to go to Lagos to see its beauty, then I think this would be a great time to visit. Just know that you won’t be sunbathing on the beach.
Thank you so much for the recommendation on West Coast Adventures! We did it yesterday and it was amazing. I’m sure it will be a highlight of our trip as well.
That’s great! We loved that part of our trip and we still talk about it often. I’m glad you had such a great time with West Coast Adventures!!
Such a great post. We are headed there in May ’18 and you have some great details that will come in handy as we plan our trip.
What month were you there?
Hi Amy! Thanks for reading! We went to Portugal in early September. Even by then it was a little cool at night (especially in Porto). And the water was very cold in September (in Lagos), so I would expect it to be the same in May as well!
Hi! Thanks for all the great pictures and tips! I stumbled on your blog today as my husband and I are planning a trip to Portugal in May, and we already had just about the same itinerary as you planned. We were looking for more specifics about what to do in the 3 locations. I was showing him the blog when we read you flew out of Greenville, SC. That’s where we live too! I noticed another person on here made this very same comment. I knew this town was full of cool people! 🙂 Thanks again!
What a small world!! I love living in Greenville. There are definitely some pretty awesome people here. 🙂
And I hope you have a great trip in May!
We are planning on Early Sep 2018?from N Myrtle Beach! We have an 11 day itinerary that I am trying to reduce. Don’t want 4 hour plus days of driving to get from Porto down to Lagos. Are the Lagos beaches and towns worth it? We drove in Ireland in 2017 and it was aweful.
Another person from South Carolina! I love it!
The day you’ll travel from Porto to Lagos (or vice versa) will be a long travel day no matter how you do it. If you go the most direct route it will be mostly on highways (until you reach the city). But if you take backroads then expect small lanes and high speed limits. I did find the driving here to be less stressful than Ireland. Especially since you are on the right side of the road.
The question of whether Lagos is worth it is a hard one to answer. Lagos was the reason I wanted to go to Portugal. I saw the pictures online and needed to go. There was no way I was skipping it. Hence why we headed there first.
But if you’ve already had a lot of beach time, then I would consider what you want to do there. The temperatures will be warm but not hot like a South Carolina summer. And the water will be very, very, very cold. I swam for about 10 minutes and came out shivering. And then it took me a good 15 minutes to warm up since it was only about 80 degrees. (And I went around Labor Day – early Sept.)
There are a lot of things to do in the Lagos area though that aren’t beach related. For one day we went hiking over on the West coast with a guided hike and it was amazing.
I thought Lagos was beautiful and that the long travel day was worth it. I loved it. But if you see pictures of the scenery, beaches, and cliffs online and aren’t drawn to them, then maybe you could skip it.
Thanks for this guide! I’ve been debating between Lagos or Porto for 7-9 days in Portugal and I didn’t know if it be possible to do both with that time. However, I won’t be driving, I’ll only be training it. Do you think this is realistic for me?
Traveling between Lagos and Porto is going to be a long travel day. Think between 7-10 hours of travel time (depending on the train you catch). But this was our original plan. We only drove to/from Lagos because our flight to Lisbon landed at 3pm instead of 9am.
I definitely think it’s possible to do both as long as you are okay with the fact that one of your days is going to be spent on a train. I remember looking that a train out of Lagos left at about 6am and took 7 hours or so to get to Porto. Which would get you to Porto in the afternoon.
Plus if you think about it, when we drove it was still about 7 hours since we dropped off the car in Lisbon and then trained it the rest of the way. But you’ll just need to be more aware of schedules since there are only a few trains between Lagos to Porto.
My husband and I are considering Portugal for a trip this year and this post is really making me lean toward it! Is it hard to navigate the train/public transportation if you don’t speak or read Portuguese? I speak Spanish nearly fluently, but Portuguese has always been tricky for me to try to pick up.
We didn’t find it too difficult. I know some Spanish and that really helped me understand signs and the like. And most people we met spoke some English. We learned a few words (hello, thank you, please, etc.) so that we could communicate a little bit. But we found that most people who worked around transportation (train station, rental car, etc.) knew English and were happy to speak to us if we asked.
Oh and I definitely understand about Portuguese being difficult to pick up! I thought my Spanish knowledge would help me, but Portuguese sounded so different!
Thanks for your great write up! I’ve already book MyPortos for our upcoming month long trip through Italy, south of France, north of Spain and Portugal mid Sept through mid Oct. Your blog inspired me to change our plan and continue down from Lisbon to Lagos and fly out of Seville instead of Lisbon to Madrid. Thanks! Now to review your Italian blog. We will be driving the whole time, I know you only had a car to Lagos – what do you think our biggest challenge will be? I’m guessing parking but interested in your perspective. Thanks again!
I hope you have a wonderful time! Your trip sounds fantastic. In terms of driving, I would definitely think about parking – both where to park and considering the cost of how much it will cost to park. Also traffic. We only hit traffic coming back into Lisbon, but it was stressful. The roads and cars are smaller, plus all the round-abouts kept us on our toes. Also definitely read up on some of the road signs. There may be a few new ones so it helps if you know what the symbols mean.
But overall have a fantastic trip!!
Nice short trip but too bad you didn’t get to stay a little longer as there really is so much to see and do especially for such a small country.
The small villages and towns in the countryside are well worth a visit and some such as:
Bom Jesus Sanctuary
Convento de Christo in Tomar
are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and should be included in any Portugal itinerary (unfortunately a week isn’t long enough to see them all.
I spent 16 days in Portugal a few years ago including 3 on the island of Madeira and while I self drove and covered a lot of the country from north to south there was still much to see that I just didn’t have the time for, especially Lisbon.
If your like me your short taste of this beautiful little country will lead you hungry to see more!
Oh yes the struggles of the limited vacation time. I would have loved to have visited for longer and hit up some of the places you mentioned. And I definitely will go back to Portugal! I really loved it.
Hello Laura, I really enjoyed reading about your travel to Portugal. I will be traveling to Madiera, Portugal first week in September from NY and is so looking forward to it. I plan on spending a full day in Lisbon before heading over to Madiera which I already have accommodations booked. I just have to book my flight to include an over night stay in Lisbon. Any recommendations on a place to stay that is decent and not too expensive?
Looking forward to your response.
We stayed in Hall Chiado which was in our budget for a hotel. It was a bit lower-end but still hotel prices. I also really liked the Independente when I was looking, but a private room there was expensive. But they do have shared rooms (dorms), that could be more in your budget if you’re willing to go hostel!
Thank you for the great write up! I am heading to Portugal for 11 days and trying to plan our itinerary and your post has been so helpful as it has all the spots we want to go to! I am trying to decide which airport to fly into (I am flying from NY) and it looks like there are flights to Porto. I am thinking that makes the most sense to fly into and then head down to lisbon and lagos from there to avoid the long travel day from lagos to porto. Is this not actually possible/not a good idea?
I definitely think it’s doable to fly into Porto. Would you fly out of there as well though? If so you can catch a flight from Faro to Porto (I think) so that might be an option for getting back to Porto. But you can definitely fly into Porto if that makes sense from NY!
Fabulous. Hugs and Thanks. Finally a write up to help me create a perfect itinerary. Keep sharing. Keep inspiring ?
Thank you! I’m glad you’ll find it helpful planning your own trip!
I loved your blog on Portugal. My boyfriend and I are going in June and only have about a week as well. I was planning on hitting all the same places, so your write up helped tremendously! I will follow your blog for sure in the future! 🙂
As far as the west side of Lagos, how difficult is the terrain? It just looks spectacular, but I am 50 and he is 52, and the photos seemed to be mostly younger people. We are both in good shape, but certainly aren’t rock climbers or marathon runners by any means. What are your thoughts?
Also, do you know if Portugal has individual cabins on any trains or just 1st and 2nd class accommodations? It would be nice to lie down, especially on the long hauls. Thanks so much!
The terrain is definitely difficult. Think craggy and steep hillsides. When I went, there was a couple in our group that didn’t feel as confident. They took their time and if there was a section they didn’t feel comfortable with, they just didn’t do it. I think if you’re in good shape, you can definitely still go. I’m also not a rock climber. And marathon runner? (Hah!) I’d definitely still try it out.
And I don’t remember seeing any cabins on the trains. I think some trains in Europe are “sleeper” trains, but I don’t remember seeing any of these in Portugal.
Hi Laura –
I LOVE this blog and it is so helpful with our upcoming trip to Portugal. I need your opinion: We are flying from Barcelona to Porto and staying there 2 nights. We then fly to Faro for 2 nights. We then fly to Lisbon for 3 nights (and fly home from Lisbon). You did not mention flying – does that make sense to you? We have our flight booked into/out of Portugal – but we haven’t booked our inner flights yet. I’m okay with paying more if we are saving time and it allows us to see more. Thoughts? My other question: Even though we fly into Faro – does it make sense to then head to Lagos and stay there (we really want those beaches) or should we do a day trip to Lagos and stay closer to airport in Faro. Thanks for any advice you can offer.
You can definitely fly! We met a few other couples who were doing this as well. I happen to love traveling by train so this was our go-to. Flying will definitely be quicker (especially for the Porto->Faro section).
In terms of staying in Faro or Lagos…that’s really a tough one. If you just want Lagos for the beaches, I definitely think you could just go for the day. You may be a bit stretched on that day bouncing between them all, but I think you could do it.
We had other things we wanted to do in Lagos, hence why we stayed there. But Faro also looks beautiful, and one of my friends stayed in Faro on her trip and she loved it.
Since you just have two nights in southern Portugal, it may make sense to stay close to the airport and not have to worry about lugging your bags on and off trains (or taxis).
And I fell in love
I want to go back ❤️❤️❤️
Yes! I love Portugal too! I’m definitely planning a trip back.
Thank you for this post! We just booked a flight to Portugal (from San Francisco) with our baby girl for September and are so excited! I Googled “a week in Portugal,” and your post popped up. It’s been incredible helpful in our planning! Thanks again!!
Thank you! I plan for trips soooo much. I definitely wanted to share my itinerary to help others as well! I’m glad it’s been helpful!
Hi Laura, thanks for your blog, it’s amazing! I’m traveling to Portugal the first week of July and I have some questions for you, please give us some advice.
* We (the bro and I) are staying for a week and we’re following pretty much your itinerary. We already rented a car until we come back to Lisbon from Porto. Is this necessary? We really want to have the freedom to leave and arrive whenever we want, we don’t like to follow strict schedules (also, how do you pay for tolls?)
* In our way to Porto from Lagos we are spending the night in Coimbra to spend the next morning exploring the city. Do you think is a good idea?
* I know most people recommend not to drive in Porto but we would like to visit a couple of places around the city, so we will spend 2 days in Porto, do you think is enough?
* What area/neighborhood do you recommend to stay in Lisbon? Also, do you think we need a whole day to go to Sintra? We only have 2 1/2 days to enjoy Lisbon and we wanna make sure we are spending our time in the best possible way.
Thanks a lot!
I hope you have a wonderful time! I’ll try to answer your questions as best as I can.
– It’s not necessary to rent a car for the Porto portion, but if you are people who thrive on that kind of freedom, you can definitely keep it for that long. Just be careful driving (and parking) in Porto. It has very small, windy roads! For the tolls they were like automatically added to our license plate and so we paid when we returned the car.
– I think staying an evening in Coimbra would be great! I was sad it didn’t make this trip and I definitely would love to see it. It’ll also help break up a long day.
– We spent about 2 days in Porto. I could have definitely done more, but 2 days allowed me to get a taste of the city. And if you stay more outside the historic center and then just travel in, that might be easier. But I wouldn’t give up Porto just because you have a car.
– We stayed in the Chiado area since this was close to everything without being in the middle of the nightlife area. And if you go to Sintra, I would expect to spend most of the day. If you do it by train, it’ll be almost an hour each way. And though you can take a bus around to the main sites, you’ll still be waiting for the bus (instead of walking). If you only want to go to 1 site, you could probably do it in half a day. However if you go fast through the sites, you may be able to cut down some time.
Have a great time!
Great post, but I have to say, Lisbon blew me away!!! I never made it to Sintra, Cascais or Estoril…. I was so overwhelmed by Lisbon’s beauty, one week was not enough…. I’ve never been so capitavated by a European city, with the exception of Rome that has left a longing in my soul…. Everything about this city just captivated me…. I was there this past October, 2017, and felt that the throngs of tourists are going to destroy such a gorgeous city…. All I ask, is that my dear Lisbon please stay the way you are, and never conform to the Madonna’s, David Beckham’s etc. that are flocking to your “Barros” and stay true to your roots…. I’ll be back to explore Coimbra, Oporto, Évora…. I promise ❤️
i’m so glad that you have loved my small big country. We have so much to offer and i hope that you come back to see what you didn’t see yet! Come back and bring friends … we would love it … and you too.
p.s: Porto is my hometown … if, one day, you need help to find really good places, remember me, please!
p.s2: we have really beautiful beaches outside Algarve. Go check Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast 😉
I loved Portugal and I’m definitely coming back. There’s still so much that I didn’t get to see (like the beaches you mentioned!). Porto was one of my favorite places and I definitely want to head back there. So jealous that it’s your hometown!
Long overdue, but thanks so much for your insights into Lisbon and Sintra! My wife and I went late last May and found them to be very helpful! We only wish we could have stayed longer and explored more of Portugal. Thanks again and have a great 2019 with hopefully more fun trips for all!
I’m so glad you found my insights helpful and that you had a great time in Portugal. Hope you have a wonderful 2019 too!
Amazing overview. You are an excellent writer and provide really good info. I am going soon and have found your article extremely helpful. Thank you so much and happy travels!
Thank you! I’m glad you found my itinerary above helpful. I hope you have a fabulous time in Portugal!!!
This is a wonderful post. You are a great writer, and I found the content to be very useful and direct! Thank you for all the suggestions 🙂
My boyfriend and I are planning to travel to Portugal in june but will only have 6 full days in the country, before traveling to spain. what do you feel we might be able to leave out to make the most of the trip?
Thank you! I tried to provide as much information as I could about our trip.
In terms of what to cut…that’s a tough one!! I think it relies on what you like the most. The obvious answer would seem to be Lagos. It’s the furthest away, the longest to get to, etc. But I loved it so much. It was the reason I wanted to go to Portugal. But for my boyfriend who wasn’t such a beach person, he would have cut that one. And then just taken a day trip from Lisbon out to the beaches nearby.
So if beaches are something you like but not love, you can still do a day trip from Lisbon and see one. So maybe Lagos.
If you really want to go to Lagos, I think my next recommendation would be Porto. Especially if you’ll be traveling in and out of Lisbon, it would next make sense to cut Porto. That hurts me to say, but it makes logistical sense in terms of travel time vs. experiencing time.
Hi! I’m looking at trains going from Lisbon to Lagos and there is a connection at Tunes, but I only have 15 minutes to make the connection. Do you think that is doable? Not sure how big/hard to navigate the Tunes station is
The Tunes station is probably small. I’ve had connections in like Munich with only 15 minutes and have made it. The only thing to watch out for is if the train gets delayed then 15 minutes doesn’t give you too much time.
Wow! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I am heading to Lisbon for work in May and I have booked 5 extra days to see the rest of the country. I will see a bunch of Lisbon during the work event so I googled “lagos vs porto” and your blog post came up! What a gem! I am still so torn, I want to do both places so badly. I can’t decide if trying to squeeze in both a beach and a city trip will be too much, since they are in opposite directions! (maybe I will do both and just not sleep! ha!) Looks like Alyssa – who posted in February had the same issue – what to cut!?
Thanks for the great post!
Why would anyone choose to go from the far south then north then middle? Wouldn’t it be smarter to start Porto and end in Lagos or vice versa?
I flew out of Lisbon which is why I saved it for last. Just worked out better for me that way due to my flights since I knew I was going to have to head back to Lisbon at the end of my trip. Sorry for any confusion there!
Great post on Portugal! It’s one of my favorite countries and I can’t wait to go back.
Thank you for the amazing post! We are going to Portugal in April and this answered a lot of my questions since I wanted to see all three places. Fortunately we live in Southern California, a few miles from the beach so I am going to cut Lagos and spend more time between Lisbon and Porto. Sintra is definitely on our list, as it comes highly recommended from a friend for a day trip. We like to stay in one place for a few days to really explore the area and culture and we also want to stop by Nazare to see the famous surf! We are visiting our daughter in Madrid first and then all heading to Portugal for the week. Do you think it makes sense to fly into Lisbon and fly out of Porto back to Spain? Or vice versa? I will research Coimbra from the above recommendation. If anyone on this blog has any recommendations for what else to see between Lisbon and Porto, please advise. We will rent a car so we can maximize exploring the coast between the two cities.
I’m so glad you found this helpful! I’d love to go back to Portugal and spend a couple more days in Sintra – there really is so much to see there! I’d love to spend like 2-3 days touring all the amazing sites. And I’d LOVE to go to Nazare to see the surfers. I believe the surf is the most intense in the winter, but it should still be impressive!
If the flights work out, I think it’s totally fine to fly into one city and out the other – that way you don’t have to go back to the original city just to fly home. I was on a tight budget when I did this trip so it didn’t work out for me.
Very helpful, couple questions? We r flying into Lisbon and was going to rent a car to go to nazare because didn’t seem like u could get there and explore otherwise? After that we r going down to Lagos for 3 days but was wondering do we need a car for that portion? Can u get around all those beaches and ponta da piedade and faro without a car? How did u get around? U didn’t explain that part, Uber? I’d rather not rent at all because of parking, but at same time want to see as much as possible and stop here and there. Wonder if we can get from Lisbon to nazare for the day? Thanks!
Would also love pricing of what u paid to give an ideal for b&b’s and restaurants. I realize this was pre pandemic but it helps. Thanks again 🙂
Thanks so much for this information! We were going to rent a car in Porto at the airport and drive to Lagos to give us flexibility but wanted to get your advice on car rentals, are the car rental lines really long at the airport and would we be better off renting a car in Porto? And we are thinking, Porto, Evora, Tavira, Lagos for 10 days -or is that too much? ANd would you suggest Coimbra or Evora for a stop over on our way to the Lagos?